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(STFC DTP) Halogen behaviour during shock metamorphism and alteration on Mars

Project Description

The heavy halogens (Cl, Br and I) are incompatible and fluid-mobile, making them excellent tracers of volatile evolution and transport processes on planetary bodies. Understanding the secondary processes that affect their distribution is therefore important to our wider understanding of planetary volatile budgets. Mars, which is sampled by the shergottite, nahklite, and chassignite (SNC) meteorites, as well as ALH 84001 and the ‘Black Beauty’ regolith breccias, makes an excellent natural laboratory to study how halogens are mobilised and redistributed during secondary processing, such as alteration and shock metamorphism. For example, martian meteorites have the potential to preserve important fluid-rock interaction processes on Mars’ surface, in the form of alteration minerals. Additionally, martian meteorites have all undergone shock metamorphism and are therefore ideal candidates to investigate the role of shock on halogen distribution. Iodine, as a large ion, is particulary susceptible to this effect. Martian meteorites represent an exciting opportunity to characterise halogen behaviour during secondary processes, with implications for the evolution of planetary volatile budgets.

The aim of this project is to investigate how halogens respond to and record the history of aqueous alteration and shock processes on Mars, with implications for the martian halogen budget and understanding more widely how secondary processes affect the volatile budgets of planetary bodies. The project work package will combine petrographic characterisation with the halogen and trace element geochemistry of martian meteorites to investigate specific research questions, such as: What information about Mars’ surface interactions can we extract from the halogen composition of its alt
ration products? How has the martian halogen budget, and in particular iodine, been affected by pervasive shock metamorphism?

• You will identify and carefully select appropriate target meteorites for study and apply for the selected samples from Museum, Antarctic and private holdings. You will undertake careful petrological characterisation of all samples. In addition to optical and back-scattered electron microscopy, you will use the automated mineral mapping software QEMSCAN to give detailed and high-resolution mineral, chemical and textural information on all samples. X-ray element mapping, including Cl, will be used to assess terrestrial contaminants and aid the identification of host halogen phases. Quantitative mineral chemistry will be carried out by electron microprobe.
• You will use the neutron−irradiation noble gas mass spectrometry (NI−NGMS) technique, pioneered at the University of Manchester, to measure the halogen abundances of both bulk meteorites and mineral separates, including targeted alteration assemblages and maskelynite (shocked, recrystallised plagioclase) .
• You will analyse the trace element composition of bulk samples to aid interpretation of volatile mobility and characterise the the presence of alteration assemblages.
• You will synthesise observations from petrography and mineral-chemical/geochemical datasets to inform on how halogens behave during shock metamorphism and alteration, with an emphasis on applying this information more widely to both Mars’ halogen budget and the effect of these processes operating on other planetary bodies.


Ruzié-Hamilton et al. (2016) Chemical Geology, 437, 77-87. Hallis et al. (2017) Geochmica et Cosmochimica Acta, 200, 280-294. Filiberto et al. (2016) Meteoritics & Planetary Science 51, 2023-2035. Bridges & Warren (2006) Journal of the Geological Society London, 163, 229-251.

Related Subjects

How good is research at The University of Manchester in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 42.13

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